A HANK WILLIAMS STORY – ON THE BAYOU – part 1
“A Hank Williams Story – On the Bayou” takes place in Southwest Louisiana, early November, 1952. Sixteen “Hank” songs, in one hour. There is an ongoing narration between each track. It starts with just Hank and his guitar, and builds, an instrument at a time, as others join in. For a brief time, Hank enjoys himself and his music.
Jim Laing, my Scottish friend and real jet pilot, narrates the story, and Byron Allred, from the Steve Miller Band, records and adds instrumentation. Many thanks to both of them! I do the singing, guitar, and bass. Click on the song title to hear it as you read along. This story is recorded on CD and is for sale, but you can listen for free. Please do.
A HANK WILLIAMS STORY – part 1
- - “JAMBALAYA” 1952 - intro
Recently, I saw a TV special on Hank Williams. It reminded me of my meeting him, back in November, 1952. Actually, we both happened to be at the same picnic spot. It was at the Lorraine Bridge on Lacassine Bayou outside the city of Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Back then, I was a pilot in the British Royal Air Force. I was on a training session here in the states, and had flown into Chennault Air Force Base, in Lake Charles, that morning from Pensacola, Florida. The day before, I had been in Canada. I’d had the day off and was still in my uniform, just driving around the area, when I stopped at the park, near the bridge.
It was a Sunday, late afternoon. Most people had already left for home, after a day of kids playing games, eating, boating, fishing, and hunting. It was warm enough, but the sun was getting low in the sky, and fall was definitely in the air. Thunderstorms were developing, and it would soon rain. Still, I was in no hurry to leave.
It was mostly quiet, and yet, you could hear sounds from far away. I was just gazing out upon the nature of it all, when a man with a guitar walked out onto a small landing dock, not far from me. I’d seen him pull up in a big Cadillac. He was skinny, and his white hat looked like he might have sat on it, or, it had gotten wet – it was crooked somehow. He was deep in thought. I noticed he was walking rather stiffly, as if something was hurting.
He looked out across the bayou, towards the sound of someone chopping down a tree. Then, he called out to his buddy who was nearby - “George why don’t you grab your bass. We’ll go over a couple of songs.”. George waved an “okay”. The man looked back at the woods, the sky, then looked at his guitar, and started singing. - - -
- - “THERE’S A TEAR IN MY BEER” 1952
That was a pretty good song, I thought, with some funny words, but sad. He muttered something about “string buzzes?”. His voice sounded familiar to me.
By this time, George had come up to the landing with his big ole standup bass. I guessed maybe they were part of some act. As the man was telling George about a song, they didn’t notice the black fisherman in his boat, as he pulled up to the dock. He was standing amidst fishing lines and traps. As the song began, he looked at the duo, then reached down into a bag and brought out a few harmonicas. - - -
- - “I’LL NEVER GET OUT OF THIS WORLD ALIVE” 1952
Well, that was really nice. That fellow with the harmonicas started playing right along with them. It startled both George, and the man. But they really liked his playing, and told him so. He told them his name was John.
“You are Hank Williams, aren’t you?” asked John. Now, I recognized the man. “Yes, I am, and this is George,” said Hank. John said, “Pleased to meet you! I used to hear your songs on my radio all the time. I like ‘em. I’d play along. I ‘specially like ‘So Lonesome I Could Cry’. Would you care to play that one?” Hank said, “Well, sure! Okay. Here we go.” - - -
- - “I’M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY” 1949
It was quiet for a second, then there were smiles and nods. I was excited now. I’d never seen anyone famous before, unless I’d bought a ticket.
Hank said, “You play real good – do you play out anywhere?”
“Thanks, Hank, I used to,” John answered. “Sometimes the Blue Pelican Club has something going on during the day. But I really need to get home before dark. There’s no lights where I live – you need to ‘see’ your way in. I kinda like it that way.”
Hank and George seemed drawn into John’s way of talking, and so was I.
“Fact is,” John continued, “I got to go, now, it’ll be dark soon. And I got traps to set.”
“Just one more song, okay?” asked Hank. “Two more minutes! I really like hearing you play. - Pick a song!”
John just smiled and nodded another thanks, looked up the bayou for a moment, and then said, “Okay”. He reached down for another harmonica - “How ‘bout Leon Payne’s ‘Lost Highway’?”
“You got it!” Hank said. “I don’t think we’ve played this one yet, George. I play it in ‘D’.”
End part 1
Photo from Hank Williams Pictures
Please SHARE and SUBSCRIBE. Thank you!
Check out “ALLIGATORS AND LOST PILOTS WITH JEFF TATE”